Raccoons are the carriers of roundworm infection. The parasites live in the intestines of raccoons and spread to humans as well as pet animals through raccoon feces. Therefore, it is important to keep children, pets and ourselves safe from the infection.
Humans can get infected with a number of parasites. One of the parasites is the Baylisascaris procyonis, which is commonly known as raccoon roundworm. As the name suggests, it is a roundworm infection found in the small intestinal tract of raccoons. Therefore, raccoons are not only a pest, which destroys human property, but also pose danger to human health.
The roundworm live in the intestines of the raccoons and absorb nutrients from the small intestines. They are often tan white in color and have cylindrical, yet tapering ends. They often are about 9 to 22 cm in length. It is seen that it is the young raccoon, which spreads the infection, as opposed to the adult raccoons.
Causes of Raccoon Roundworm Infection
The adult worms are known to lay millions of eggs, which are passed out of the intestines with animal feces. When the eggs are in the environment, they are in dormant stages and stay alive for many years. The specialty of these eggs is that they do not get killed with disinfectants. They start acting, when the eggs are ingested by a host. The eggs may be ingested accidentally, due to fecal contamination of food or also through hands. When the eggs are ingested, the young worms are hatched. These worms gradually make their way to different organs of the host.
The infection can affect tissues in the different parts of the body such as liver, heart, lungs, brain and eyes. Children are more prone to the roundworm infection, as they come in contact with raccoon eggs contaminated soil more often. We cannot forget that children, especially toddlers have a habit of eating soil. Hence, it is important to keep an eye on the children, when they are playing in the garden.
Raccoon Roundworm Infection Symptoms
The raccoon roundworms infection in humans will take about one to three weeks to show any signs or symptoms, after the eggs have been ingested. The symptoms also depend on the number of eggs that have been ingested. Along with the number of eggs ingested, the body part that the larvae make their way to is also important. If not too many eggs are ingested, hardly any symptoms will be seen, however, if a large number of eggs are ingested, then the infection may be serious. Irritation of the skin is one of the most common symptoms of this infection. The skin infection is caused due to the larvae migrating. If the larvae enter the brain, they snack on the tissues in the brain.
In such cases, it will be seen that the person sleeps a lot and the white blood cell count increases enormously. Depending on the part of the brain to be affected, the symptoms of the condition differ. In some cases, the patient may experience loss of balance, while in others it may be loss of vision. If the spinal cord is affected with infection, then the patient may suffer from tremors, poor reflexes and paralysis as well. If the liver is affected, it can lead to liver enlargement.
Raccoon Roundworm Infection Treatment
The best treatment is to prevent the infection itself. Isn’t it said ‘prevention is better than cure’. Medications for de-worming will have to be taken to get rid of the worms, after consulting a health care professional. However, these medications are able to eradicate the adult worms, whereas the eggs and migrating larvae are unaffected with it. Therefore, in most cases, the patient is expected to take de-worming medications for an extended period of time and repeat the medication at regular intervals, till the symptoms of infection are not seen any more. The physician will be in better condition to prescribe the right treatment depending on the symptoms.
Measures will have to be taken to prevent this infection itself. It is important to ensure that there is no infestation of raccoons in the area you stay in. In case there are then measures to get rid of them will have to be taken. It is important that one washes oneself properly after working in the gardens. Similarly, after the children have played in the garden, make sure they wash themselves well, to prevent the infection. It is important to take care that the children do not come in contact with raccoon feces. If there are any objects, which have been contaminated with raccoon feces, it is important that they be disposed off with care.